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Living in Istanbul

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Deciding where to live as an expat in Istanbul is an important choice. There are many factors to consider, such as where you are working, who you are with and what you consider as important in your daily life. Istanbul is a vast, densely populated city with a huge range of options for living. Our local experts have put together a list of the most popular places to live for expats in Istanbul along with their major characteristics... with everything from most and least appealing features to how to get there and away!

My Destination

Lying along the Marmara Sea on Istanbul's European side, Bakırköy is a middle-class residential neighbourhood close to Atatürk International Airport. The area boasts a number of large shopping malls and business centres. Although perhaps not as vibrant or aesthetically appealing as the areas on the other side of the Golden Horn, the growing number of English language schools attracts a large number of teachers to Bakırköy, along with those working in the aviation industry.

Income Scale: Mid Range
Appeal: Shopping; Sea Views; Close Proximity to Atatürk International Airport; Close to Historical Centre; Many English Language School in the Area
Downside: Crowded
Expat Profile: Atatürk Airport Workers; English Teachers; Families
Connected By: Train, Seabus Ferry; Bus; Dolmuş

My Destination
Beşiktaş & European Bosphorus

The sprawling Beşiktaş district is comprised of some of Istanbul's most desirable suburbs including Arnavutköy, Bebek, Etiler, Levent and Ortaköy. The areas clustered closest to the Bosphorus are characterised by their beautiful wooden Ottoman villas, lush parks, exclusive nightclubs, cosy cafes and gourmet restaurants, while a little further inland the focus turns more toward business, shopping and entertainment. During rush hour, the roads become very conjested in this district. Beşiktaş centre itself has a laid back, studenty vibe, while suburbs like Levent, Etiler, Arnavutköy and Bebek largely cater to an elite market. Generally speaking, prices rise the closer places get to the water.

Income Scale: Low - Mid - Upper Range
Appeal: Sea Views; Local Markets; Shopping Malls; Nightlife; Entertainment; Close proximity to major transport networks; Many English Language Schools in the Area; Close to Major Universities
Downside: Crowded in some areas; Traffic jams common along Bosphorus
Expat Profile: Students; Teachers; Business Professionals; Families; Artists/Intellectuals
Connected By: Bus; Dolmuş; Ferry; Metro; Minibus

My Destination
Beyoğlu - Taksim

Something of a hedonist's paradise, it is impossible to get bored in Istanbul's Beyoğlu-Taksim district. With the largest concentration of cafes, restaurants, bars and nightclubs in the city, Taksim also hosts a plethora of art galleries and museums, shops of just about every description and many historical sites just waiting to be discovered. Popular with foreigners for centuries, many expats in Istanbul choose to live in Taksim because of its lively atmosphere, wide range of housing options (from budget to luxury) and good connections with the public transport system. More upper-scale neighbourhoods in Taksim include the charming Cihangir and Çukurcuma, while those on a tight budget cluster around the area's more ramshackle backstreets.

Income Scale: Low-Mid-Upper Range
Appeal: Entertainment; Shopping; Nightlife; History; Culture; Restaurants; Close Proximity to Major Transport Networks; Close to Historical Centre; Many English Language Schools in the Area; Liberal Area
Downside: Crowded; Noisy
Expat Profile: Students; Artists/intellectuals; Party Animals; Teachers; Business Professionals
Connected By: Bus; Dolmuş; Funicular; Metro; Nostalgic Tram

My Destination

Eminönü, comprised of the Sultanahmet district, is usually the first place that comes to mind for visitors to Istanbul. Boasting a jaw-dropping number of historical sites, beautifully restored Ottoman houses and views over the sea from its many terraces, Eminönü is no doubt one of the most picturesque of Istanbul's suburbs. Because of this, the area is flooded with tourists all year round, inflating prices in most places and adding a touch of surreality to it all. The narrow, cobbled streets also make driving and parking here difficult, however, it is very well connected to Istanbul's public transportation system.

Income Scale: Low - Mid - Upper Range
Appeal: Historical Centre; Sea Views; Culture: Close Proximity to Major Transport Networks
Downside: Touristy; Conservative Area
Expat Profile: Tourism Professionals; Retirees
Connected By: Bus; Dolmuş; Ferry; Train; Tram

My Destination

Kadiköy's main appeal lies in its laid back nature. It may not boast the historical sites of the Eminönü Peninsula or the grandeur of the Bosphorus-side suburbs, but it nevertheless maintains its own charm. Chock-full of English language schools, universities (private and public), dersanes (preparatory schools) and other educational institutiions, this largely middle-class district on the Asian side of Istanbul is becoming an increasingly popular to live for expat teachers and students as well as families. The district is large, spreading from Kadiköy centre outwards to areas like Moda, Acibadem and the shopping and entertainment areas in and around Bagdat Street.  Kadiköy has a lively restaurant, cafe and nightlife scene and is well connected to other areas of Istanbul by land and sea.

Income Scale: Low - Mid Range
Appeal: Laid Back; Sea Views; Restaurants; Nightlife; Close to Major Universities; Many English Language Schools in the Area; Well Connected; Local Markets; Shopping; Liberal Area
Downside: Difficulty Commuting to European Side during Rush Hours
Expat Profile: English Teachers; Students: Artists/Intellectuals; Families
Connected By: Bus; Dolmus; Ferry; Metrobus; Minibus; Nostalgic Tram; Train; Seabus Ferry

My Destination

Situated at the heart of Istanbul's central business district, Mecidiyeköy is dominated by large skyscrapers, modern shopping malls and concrete apartment blocks. With its own Metro and Metrobus stops, this bustling area is a convenient place of residence for businesspeople and those who want to be close to Istanbul's main shopping and nightlife districts. (Taksim is just 5 minutes away by Metro). The cost of living here is generally very reasonable, although this is somewhat offset by the lack of green spaces.

Income Scale: Low - Mid Range
Appeal: Well Connected; Many English Language Schools in the Area; Local Markets; Shopping; Close Proximity to Nightlife and Entertainment
Downside: Crowded; Little Aesthetic Appeal
Expat Profile: English Teachers; Business Professionals; Students
Connected By: Bus; Dolmuş; Metro; Metrobus; Minibus

My Destination

One of Istanbul's most Europeanised suburbs, Nişantaşı is a highly desirable place to live for expats in Istanbul. With its wide boulevards and graceful architecture, Nişantaşı oozes style. The area is renowned for its high street fashion shopping and upscale nightlife and restaurant scene with foreign brands in excess. By its very nature, the cost of living here is high.

Income Scale: Upper Range
Appeal: Shopping: Entertainment; Nightlife; Architecture; Well Connected; Liberal Area
Downside: Pricey
Expat Profile: Business Professionals; Families; Artists/Intellectuals
Connected By: Bus; Dolmuş; Metro; Funicular

My Destination

Üsküdar is a middle class, residential suburb on the Asian side of the city. Littered with remnants of Istanbul's Ottoman past and with the largest concentration of mosques in the city, Üsküdar has something of an exotic air about it. Though noticeably more conservative than nearby Kadıköy, the people are generally very welcoming and the cost of living is lower. Üsküdar's centre is situated just opposite the Marmara Sea, making it easy to get to other areas of the city by water thanks to the well developed ferry services.

Income Scale: Low - Mid Range
Appeal: Laid Back; Local Markets; Restaurants; History; Culture; Sea Views; Well Connected
Downside: Conservative Area
Expat Profile: English Teachers; Students; Business Professionals; Families
Connected By: Bus; Dolmuş; Ferry; Metrobus; Minibus; Seabus Ferry

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Istanbul Photos

  • Grand Bazaar

    Grand Bazaar

  • Sultanahmet © Yildirim Incealemdaroglu

    Sultanahmet © Yildirim Inceale...

  • Goksu Creek

    Goksu Creek

  • Grand Bazaar

    Grand Bazaar

  • Bosphorus ©Helen Simpson

    Bosphorus ©Helen Simpson

  • Bosphorus by Mista Riggs

    Bosphorus by Mista Riggs

See all Istanbul photos »


"People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home" - Dagobert D. Runes